As Americans grapple with increasing tension and division, what can we learn from the past to connect with each other? Arizona has a rich history with Japanese Americans since the 19th century. Hundreds of acres of the land were once owned by Japanese-American farmers who created thriving agriculture communities, producing and delivering products across and beyond the state. During WWII, Arizona had two concentration camp sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Traces of those histories are disappearing from public view. Filmmaker and educator Reina Higashitani works with student junior producers Catherine Baxter and Tinnley Subsin to document those stories. Their podcast series, Chasing Cherry Blossoms, and its interactive website connect firsthand accounts of history with contemporary experiences and prompt discussions such as model minority myth, perpetual foreignness, and legacies of resistance. Join them in a discussion of the power of community storytelling and explore what it means to be an American today.
This livestream program is hosted by Arizona Humanities and is part of the Representation Matters series. Funding for Representation Matters has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the United We Stand: Connecting Through Cultural initiative.
Reina Higashitani, Producer, is a Japanese filmmaker and an assistant professor at Arizona State University, the Sidney Poitier New American Film School. She has produced over fifty independent films, media projects, and TV documentaries including the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Redemption,” Sundance Film Festival official selection “Kusama-Infinity,” “No Contract, No Cookies”(HBO), and a Tokyo Video Festival Excellence Award-winning documentary “Shall We Sing?”(PBS and KTV), which she also directed. She also led various media workshops and mentorship programs for underrepresented youth and people with disabilities in local communities. Higashitani is committed to educating new visual storytellers with passion and an inclusive mindset.
Catherine Jie Baxter, Junior Producer, is a senior at Arizona State University in Herberger Arts, Media, and Engineering School and Barrett, The Honors College. She is a Digital Culture Media Processing major and hopes to become an audio engineer after graduation. She is a first-generation Chinese immigrant, having been adopted from China as a baby. She is hoping to gain new, applicable skills as well as a chance to find answers to her own sense of identity as a Chinese-American.
Tinnley Sawan Subsin, Junior Producer, is a senior at Arizona State University studying Medical Microbiology with a minor in Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies. She’s biracial as her father’s side of the family immigrated from Thailand. She was born and raised in Arizona and although she identifies as Asian-American, she often feels disconnected from Thai culture. She is interested in hearing other people’s experiences with finding their identities and learning how she could apply their advice to her own journey.